As restrictions continue to be lifted in Ontario, there is growing anticipation about whether the Toronto Raptors could be allowed to return home later this year.
However, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver told media ahead of the NBA Finals, plans are still up in the air for a potential homecoming.
"It's unclear yet," Silver said Tuesday. "I know on behalf of Larry Tanenbaum, who's the governor of the team and happens to be the chairman of the board of the NBA, he's very hopeful that Ontario will open up and they'll be able to have the team back in Toronto."
The Raptors spent the 2020-21 season in Tampa Bay, Fla., with their temporary home set up at Amalie Arena. The team had a disappointing season, finishing with a 27-45 record, and president Masai Ujiri made it clear last month that there's only one arena they want to call home next season.
“I don’t want to be selfish on the sports part, and as an NBA worker or executive, I don’t want to be selfish and push our agenda before other people, but, yes, timing matters and we would like to be considered, because we do not want – I repeat – we do not want to play anywhere else but Toronto,” Ujiri said at his end-of-season media availability in May.
"I think the government knows what they need to do. We want to play [in Toronto] 100 per cent. We have no interest in going to play anywhere else. Tampa was unbelievable to us. They were great to us, but like Freddie [VanVleet] said, Tampa is not Toronto."
Several other Ontario sports teams who were forced to relocate, like the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto FC, are also trying to make arrangements to return home. As Sportsnet's Shi Davidi reported earlier this week, the Blue Jays are awaiting a response from the federal government on a proposal that would bring them back to Rogers Centre for a homestand beginning July 30.
Toronto FC's travelling party is returning home on Thursday with the hope that they will be able to host games at BMO Field in the near future.
As for the Raptors, the NBA will be returning to a normal calendar for the 2021-22 season. Training camps are planned to start on Sept. 28, with the regular season getting underway on Oct. 19.
"I know it's incredibly meaningful to the team," Silver said. "I think there was that additional burden placed on the Raptors more than any other team by having to relocate for the season, but we are hopeful the team will be back if things continue as we're seeing in Canada right now."